Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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February 24, 2013

THE NATURALIZED MID-AMERICAN: Conference reveals simple solutions to sustainability

Last week I left home for two days to go to Bloomington for the winter conference of the Indiana Urban Forestry Council. Yes, there really is such a group, and no, you shouldn’t be surprised, because every profession and every industry now has such a group.

The IUFC is big and active enough that we don’t have to meet in the basement boiler room. We actually had a small conference space in the Convention Center — and we filled it up.

We spent most of one afternoon touring Bloomington’s wonderful, fledgling community orchard. It sits on something less than a half acre plot in one of the city parks.

While we looked at the 22 varieties of fruit, nuts and berries — many of them native to Indiana, including paw paw and serviceberry — we listened to Amy Roche describe how the orchard came to be.

Amy, the orchard’s outreach director, said that several years ago some people in the area recognized an economic, community-building and horticultural need that a public orchard could fill by way of making food available, bringing diverse groups of people together, and demonstrating fruit propagation techniques. The long and short of it is, these people got the city on board, wrote themselves a grant, and built themselves a community orchard managed entirely by volunteers.

The next morning, we heard several people, including Bloomington’s city forester, Lee Huss, talk about uses for urban wood, other than mulch or fuel. This is something I’ve puzzled about for quite some time myself.

In the course of these sessions I realized that I had made the possibilities far more complicated than they needed to be.

In Bloomington, they’ve simply found sawyers and woodworkers who are willing to trade services for wood. A sawyer will saw up a log and give half the wood back to the city. A craftsperson will make three display tables and give one to the city. It’s pretty simple. And considering the sustainability, localness, memory attachment, beauty and unusual character of urban wood, there is plenty of demand for it.

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